May 27, 2009

My Life in the Millennial Saeculum

I was born in April during a First Turning. I am one of many post war or victory babies born during an era of good schools, strong families, and general security. The 4th Turning has special meaning for me because the seasons of the Saeculum exactly match those of my own life. From Spring to Winter, history’s seasons are those of my life cycle as well.

My childhood was simple. My parents immigrated from Germany in 1956 to start their lives all over again. They carried all their worldly possessions in two suitcases and were 500 dollars in debt. They came to America with one goal in mind: give their children a better life than what they had endured during the Great Depression and World War II. My father and his brother started up their own concrete business making fireplaces, building facades and garden figurines. My father was also a part-time musician and assembled his own band that entertained other German immigrants. My mother stayed home and raised us four children. We went from abject poverty to a comfortable level of existence in a few years through hard work and the opportunities that America provided my family.

In this era, children were raised to be idealistic. We were adorable as babies, cute as grade school pupils and striking as we entered our teens, after which our parents would be very, very proud of us. I was supposed to become famous when I grew up. My parents expected me to become a famous dancer or violinist. Then my Opa in Germany would see me on television and he could tell all his friends that I was his granddaughter. But I had other ideas and without realizing it at the time, joined the many other Boomers who questioned their parents’ values and then rebelled against the establishment. I could not accept that the purpose of my life was to simply live out the fantasies of my parents and grandparents because they had been deprived of the opportunities that were given to me. Even as a young child I knew I had been born for a different purpose.

Along came Summer and the great Awakening. Shakespeare wrote, “Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,” and my secure world was shaken up with my parent’s divorce in 1970. America ’s sexual revolution hit the Silent Generation at an awkward phase of life, just when they had kids at home. From 1969-1975, there was a divorce epidemic. Men felt claustrophobic and women felt resentful. My parents were no exception. The 1970's were the cult of the adult. The cost of raising a child became a hot topic. Adults ranked autos ahead of children as necessary for a good life. My father valued his exotic birds more than he did his children. He was deeply engrossed in himself and satisfying his own needs. Meanwhile, my mother was burdened with raising her four children by herself and needing to rely on church welfare to get us through the hard times. What a rude awakening!

I got married in 1977. My three children were born in 1978, 1980 and 1983, all during the end of the 2nd Turning. I went back to nursing school in 1985 and spent the next three straight years going to school full-time. My youngest was two years old at the time and she (and her siblings) had to get used to having a part-time mom. I had married young and started having children before I had the chance to fulfill my dream of becoming a Registered Nurse. My children had to pay the price of my dream because I had had them before I could do what I wanted to. After all, I am my father’s daughter.

My three biological children and an adopted son had to grow up in a hurry. They were latch-key kids while I worked full-time. They learned to be independent, resourceful and competitive at an early age. They were given every opportunity to learn survival skills. When my oldest son, David, was only 11 years old, he went on a two week trip across the United States with a private school that he had barely joined during the middle of the school year. He was subject to migraine type headaches when stressed, and of course experienced one in Denver , after the first couple of days on the trip. We were ready to go and pick him up and bring him home, but he toughed it out. At age 12, he spent 24 hours in isolation in the desert near Escalante as part of his curriculum. At age 15, he and his 17 year old sister flew unaccompanied to Germany to spend the summer traveling all over Europe with my sister’s family. Is it any wonder that David left home (to attend college) at age 17, after spending the summer working as a Boy Scout river running guide on the Snake River? David’s sisters have had similar growing up experiences. They are all grown up now, have children of their own and live out of state. At times it is painful for us to live so far away from one another, but we all know that they know how to survive without me. They were raised that way.

In the 1st Turning there is an economy of abundance and a psychology of scarcity. In the 3rd Turning there is an economy of scarcity and a psychology of abundance. 1984 started economic policy of large deficits, unchecked growth in entitlements spending, decreased national savings rates and heavy borrowing from foreigners. By the 1990's, fiscal excess, as well as personal excess was a way of life. The gap between the rich and poor widened. Most of America ’s adults grew up in a society with perpetually improving outcomes, better jobs, fatter wallets, stronger government, finer culture, nicer families, smarter kids, all the usual fruits of progress, but during the Unraveling, these goals were slipping away and we feared for our children and grandchildren. Dan Quayle diagnosed an ethical cancer that had metastasized through all levels of society. The Unraveling had darkened the quality of American Life.

People no longer trusted the government, but trusted the individual. There was no such thing as “normal” opinions. People found their own “niche” groups and each group exalted its own authenticity. It defined its adversary’s values as indecent, stupid, obscene and evil. The institutional order was not working and not worth defending and no one felt responsible for things as they now stood. During the 1990's, America ’s niche groups conflict came to be known as the “culture wars.” By empowering the ideals of the Awakening, the Unraveling laid the agenda for the crisis to follow.

During the 3rd Turning, my husband and I looked forward to having our children grown up and having some time for ourselves. I enrolled in college when my last two children were in high school so I could finally pursue an advanced nursing degree and further my career opportunities. At the same time I felt conflicted inside while fighting my own culture war. I came to realize that I had not yet fulfilled the divine purpose of my life. I was disenchanted with the pursuit of material wealth, status and entertainment. Staring at the prospect of having an empty nest, it didn’t seem so appealing anymore. We were at a major crossroad in our lives. My husband and I both had wonderful, secure jobs that we loved. We lived in a five-level stucco home that had recently been built for us and a large yard that we had landscaped ourselves. We loved our neighborhood and our ward. I was the Young Women’s President and I had great girls that I loved. We sang in a community choir that was very talented and sang at various community events. Our lives were full and busy and as perfect as they could be.

But the burning question I had inside of me that I had to know the answer to was this: Did I have the faith and courage necessary to sacrifice everything (as the Mormon Pioneers did) for a greater cause than just my own selfish consumption of material goods? What could I possibly contribute to the world in the very deepest sense, to give my life true meaning and purpose? I discussed my questions with my husband and turned my quest over to God and He answered me in ways beyond my wildest imagination.

My husband and I willingly walked away from everything we had built up together and started over again because it was for us, the right thing to do. We were born during the Spring and grew up during the Summer of this saeculum. We are principled visionaries with passionate values. Life isn’t worth living for us without being able to actually live what we believe deep down inside. Now that we have moved to a small community with our six adopted children and have returned back to the basics, living a much simpler lifestyle, we are living The Dream. We are no longer wasting our time and energy pursuing that which has no lasting value. We are fulfilling the measure of our creation by parenting and teaching six beautiful children that would otherwise have had no future. We have become Prophet parents raising a Hero generation along with our Nomad Children raising our Hero grandchildren in the 4th Turning.

Winter has arrived and we are preparing for tough times ahead. These are the most exciting and challenging times of all the seasons. Each generation serves a unique and important role in the 4th Turning constellation of generational archetypes.

As elder Prophets, we translate our lifelong values agenda into commandments that exact sacrifice from ourselves and others. From the young, we seek personal obedience and respect. To the young, we offer opportunity for heroism and achievement unlike anything they themselves had known at like age. As elder Prophets, we will provide the torch of conviction for younger generations during their times of trials. The Gray Champions will lead at a time of maximum danger and opportunity.

As midlife Nomads, our older children must step forward as the saeculum’s repair generation, the ones stuck with fixing the messes and cleaning up the debris left by others. They are the pragmatic managers of the crisis. They must keep the Prophets from wreaking needless destruction and the Heroes from marching too mindlessly under their elders’ banner. History is counting on them to do whatever hard jobs are necessary.

As young adult Heroes, our younger children and older grandchildren are the soldiers of the crisis. This generation complies with authority and accepts the need for public sacrifice and public virtue. They will work together as a team and build a reputation for meeting and exceeding older adult expectations.

As children Artists, our younger and future grandchildren are sensitive souls that must be protected during times of crisis. They are the vulnerable seeds of society’s future that must be saved while the emergency is overcome and the enemy defeated. They are the crisis era’s fearful watchers, tiny helpers and lucky inheritors if things turn out well.

With every 4th Turning there occurs an “ekpyrosis” - the death of an old order and a rebirth of something new. A 4th Turning clears out society’s exhausted elements and creates opportunity for fresh growth. It allows society’s survival instincts to emerge and harnesses all the archetypal strengths to maximum advantage, enabling society to work through problems that might otherwise destroy it.

There are three key points that I noticed are reoccurring themes in the book, The Fourth Turning. They are as follows:
1. An oscillation between the overprotection and underprotection of children.
2. The four archetypes lend balance and self-correction to each other and history.
3. History’s endings are open and subject to the good or bad acts of each generation.

“History is seasonal, but its outcomes are not foreordained. Much will depend on how tall we stand in the trials to come. But there is more to do than just wait for the time to come. The course of our national and personal destinies will depend in large measure on what we do now, as a society and as individuals, to prepare.” We need to move with the seasons and be present in the now. We cannot be stuck in the past, pining for easier times. We can best prepare by anticipating and preparing for the future.

My parents’ wish for their children to have a better life than they had, has come true. Without the sacrifices made by older generations in a previous 4th Turning, and my parents’sacrifice to leave their homeland and come to this amazing country of America , I would never have had the opportunity to live out my dreams. I will be forever grateful for all they have taught me to prepare me for my ultimate and final role as an elder Prophet during this 4th Turning. It is really true: the core dynamic of the saeculum is that history shapes generations and generations shape history. May we each play our parts well when it matters the most, so that our future generations can also have the opportunity to live out their dreams. It’s all up to us now and the outcome of the last turning of the Millennial Saeculum.

May 23, 2009

May's Title Swap

The Other Eminent Men of Wilford Woodruff by Vicki Jo Anderson
Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline by Becky A. Bailey
Man's Search for Meaning by Victor Frankel
Teaching Your Children to Fly by Merrilee Boyack

A New Perspective

Steven R. Covey declares in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “we see the world not as it is, but as we are – or, as we are conditioned to see it.” (pg 28) In order to live our lives most effectively, the author encourages us to have a complete paradigm shift that is principle based, not just a personality shift of behaviors and attitude.

Personality ethics are social comparisons and judgments. When we focus on improving personality ethics, we tend to try to change just our techniques and often attempt to manipulate others into what is the acceptable social model. If there isn’t deep integrity and fundamental character strength, the challenges of life will cause our true motives to surface and relationships will fail.

Many people fall in the trap of only focusing on personality ethics. Instead, we have to look deep inside ourselves and find what we fundamentally believe and think. True character ethics are timeless and universal to all humanity because they are principle based. Principles such as: fairness, integrity, honesty, human dignity, service, quality or excellence, potential and growth.

A little over a year ago, my husband and I felt so lost and unsure about parenting our oldest son, who was only four at the time. We had tried every parenting technique heard of, and felt we were “losing him.” After coming across an educational model, known as a “Thomas Jefferson Education,” that was principle based, Richard and I had such a significant paradigm shift we have profoundly changed our lives.

We stopped trying to squish our son (or any of our children) into the box of social norms. We began to focus first on ourselves by fundamentally changing our self-perception and how we viewed our children. We realized that we needed to begin with the end in mind – to know what our missions were, and then watch for and help each of our children with their individual missions.

We began to put first things first to create a more inspiring learning environment by reading classics and removing the television from our home. As parents, we realized that we needed to model the type of behavior and attitudes that we expected our children to have, by being more emotionally mature than they were, instead of borrowing strength from our position and authority.

Richard and I realized that “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them,” (Albert Einstein, pg 42). We found that principle based living and thinking was much more effective and satisfying, than just changing our parenting techniques. This road to valuing correct principles has been difficult, but well worth the effort. Keeping the end in mind, enables us to us have the courage to continue forward.